Courtesy Princeton University Press
Julian Zelizer

The book: The Kerner Report was a 1968 government study about the causes behind the urban riots in the summer of 1967. The report sparked debate over race relations and argued that racism was built into the institutions of urban America in such a way that it was reproduced over the generations.

This edition contains a new introduction by professor Julian Zelizer, in which he explores the formation of the committee in the aftermath of the race riots sweeping the nation’s cities in the summer of 1967, the journey of the committee members into the ghettos, and the reception of the report by President Johnson and by the nation. He also argues that many of the problems that the report addressed, such as black poverty, lack of jobs, poor education, police brutality, and racial discrimination are the same problems that America is facing today in the struggle against racial inequality.

The author: Julian E. Zelizer is Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

Opening lines: “ ‘Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget— is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.’

This was among the most powerful lines to come out of the Kerner Commission’s report in 1968… The report remains one of the most insightful government examinations of the state of race relations in twentieth-century America, with lessons that reverberate today and others that were ignored.”

Reviews: Steven M. Gobson, professor at the University of Oklahoma, says “The Kerner Report is one of the seminal documents in understanding American race relations and the origins of urban unrest, and was in instant bestseller when it was published in March 1968… I hope that this book helps spark a new national conversation.”